Returning Chevrolet Sonic Ditches an Unloved Engine

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Chevrolet’s little Sonic hatchback and sedan, built alongside the electric Bolt at General Motors’ Orion Assembly Plant, will return for the 2019 model year with a notable powertrain change. We already knew a 2019 version of the Sonic — rumored to be on the chopping block — was a go (thanks to California Air Resources Board certification docs), but the contents of an order guide now show greater standard torque than the 2018 model.

Notice we said torque, not horsepower.

That’s because for 2019, the Sonic ditches its never-talked-about base 1.8-liter four-cylinder in favor of a turbocharged unit. An order guide seen by GMAuthority shows the entry-level engine, once offered in the first-generation Cruze, disappears, and along with it its 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque.

In its place is the engine available as an upgrade since the Sonic’s 2012 debut: a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four generating 138 hp but a much healthier 148 lb-ft of torque. This engine also sets up shop in the Trax crossover, though it disappeared from the Cruze for that model’s second generation. A choice of six-speed manual or automatic remain round out the returning transmission choices.

Other changes to the 2019 Sonic are minor. Two paint colors bit the dust — Ivy Metallic and Arctic Blue Metallic — but in their place a new color (“Shock”) enters the palette. Don’t expect a subdued hue. Buyers will no longer have a Fun and Sun Package on their options list, so say goodbye to that turbo/sunroof/painted wheel combo.

In even more minor news, the Sonic LT sedan, when equipped with automatic transmission, loses its standard remote start. Buyers can add that feature back via the LT trim’s Convenience Package.

Greater standard twist is a good thing, but it’s debatable whether the 2019 upgrades will persuade many buyers to take a second look at Sonic. The model’s sales have slipped continuously for years. Sonic’s 2017’s tally was less than one-third of 2014’s volume, and this year hasn’t brought any improvements. Year-to-date, Sonic sales fell 41.2 percent compared to the same period last year.

While the Sonic stages a return for 2019, it’s hard to see the model surviving much longer without a rebound in sales.

[Images: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jul 08, 2018

    Is there a "hot" version of this? I would love to see Z24 badges in this and some sort of "ST" version.

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jul 08, 2018

      BTW, I am in the middle of a move where I have already relocated and drive home on the weekends. I left the F150 parked and drove the Fiesta ST back because gas is a thing. Turns out she had a ton of stuff for me to take back that I figured there was no way would fit. It fit and I can still see out the back window. I get hatchbacks now lol.

  • Blackcloud_9 Blackcloud_9 on Jul 09, 2018

    Interestingly, out here in SoCal I see a lot more Sparks than Sonics out in the wild. I had a Sonic as a loaner while my Spark EV (See?) was in for warranty work. It had the 1.8/Auto and it was a perfectly serviceable car. It did not inspire any desire. I also test-drove a Sonic while car shopping (Eventually ended up with a Soul). It had the 1.4T/Auto setup. I found the engine and tranny ill-suited to each other. The engine wanted to rev to enjoy the turbo spool-up but the trans wanted to keep up-shifting for fuel economy.

    • Festiboi Festiboi on Jul 09, 2018

      As a whole across the country, I tend to see more Sparks than Sonics. Which is bizarre, given America's preference towards larger cars. Even more ironically, Australia, which has higher fuel prices and is more favourable to smaller cars, has had its smaller Holden Spark discontinued due to poor sales while the larger Holden Barina (Chevy Sonic) continues on with solid sales

  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.
  • Crown Seems like they cut some cylinders too.A three cylinder...where are they planning on selling that??
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